My father was killed by a tram while riding his bike in Germany over 20 years ago today.
Losing my dad also meant losing everything that was good about him. Nevermore would I have him or any of the blessings he brought into my life. And that “nevermore” part is what cuts the deepest. I had looked forward to finally having him home with me and to work along side his creative, design genius. Nevermore. I had loved seeing him hold his first grandchild, and more were coming! Nevermore. My life’s happiest highlights had all been connected to gatherings with him. Nevermore. When I had faced big decisions, I could always call him for wisdom. Nevermore.
Now, if you think that as a man of faith I simply prayed and quoted Romans 8:28 repeatedly to myself until I was able to “get the victory” over my grief, you’d be wrong. There is no step-by-step, therapeutic cure for grieving. Embracing the pain and being consumed by grief…is an unavoidable part of the human journey. It becomes a tender scar that can regularly bring us to tears, a permanent reminder of our humanity…and our mortality.
We live in a culture that in many ways has lost the capacity to grieve. Besides being heartbreakingly painful, grieving implies a complete loss of control. And reminds us of the looming, ultimate loss of control that we each face. That’s part of what makes this pandemic so unsettling…each day carries the possibility…We. Will. Lose. Control.
Not much in our culture encourages us to ponder our date with destiny. In fact, looking unscientifically through my social media feeds I’d say many have avoided thinking about our “loss of control” through three activities during much of the past year: 1) Looking at screens 2) Shopping 3) Drinking. Honestly, I don’t blame or condemn anyone for doing so. We all have our coping mechanisms for dealing with our…nevermore. I’ve certainly got mine. But a crisis will generally reveal what we really believe in…and wherein lies our actual hope
There was never any doubt where my father’s hope lay, even in the worst of times. His mother died in childbirth. His father lost every penny in the Great Depression. Shoot, in my early days, dad hardly had a nickel in his pocket himself, and he never owned a house. When he faithfully followed what he believed was God’s will for a mid-life ministry change overseas, things often went maddeningly wrong with a scarcity of resources and an abundance of difficult co-workers and personality disorders. (Sheesh, all those saints can sure make a devil out of ya’!) He cried when I graduated from high school, whispering, “Where did the time go?” He cried when his stepmother died and he was unable to attend her funeral, too. We both wept the last time he said goodbye to me in the Orlando airport.
But my father was one of those people who genuinely believed his story was truly being written in God’s goodness, wisdom and omnipotence. That belief changed his entire perspective on his life’s story…even when it hurt horribly, even when it made no earthly sense…and the nevermore seemed so overwhelming. He knew his best story was always being written through God’s grace and goodness, regardless of the circumstances. He believed that and he lived it. I know this because I personally witnessed his faithfulness.
Dad’s life echoed Corrie ten Boom’s “Life Is But A Weaving” (The Tapestry Poem). The last lines are particularly applicable…
I wish I was more like my dad…
(Editor’s note: I’ve been blessed to hear a series of sermons over the past few months from Alistair Begg on I and II Samuel. They could not have been more timely for my life. His teachings from this series, and pretty much every sermon I’ve heard him preach over the last 20 years, have inspired me and much of this post. I’m incredibly grateful for Alistair Begg. Link below if you would like to hear the sermons yourself…)